By Debbie Hall
Experience Shakespeare and other great playwrights over the summer
In the lush greenery and cool breezes of Cedar City, Utah, Shakespeare and other playwrights come to life during the Utah Shakespeare Festival. Held on the campus of Southern Utah University, the festival takes place June 27-Oct. 22. The college is conveniently located within city limits, and features a vibrant Main Street, lodging and restaurants for a vacation that nourishes the mind, body and soul.
More than just Shakespeare, the festival features classic and contemporary plays. There are also interactive festival experiences that entertain, enrich and educate. Some of the presentations this year include “Much Ado About Nothing,” “Henry VIII,” “Odd Couple” and “Mary Poppins,” just to name few.
Plan on enjoying “The Greenshow,” a free 30-minute frolic of song, dance, laughter and Elizabethan sweets. Relax on the lawn or mingle in the courtyard before the evening’s main stage production. Rotating three different shows, “The Greenshow” begins at 7:10 p.m. Monday to Saturday on the new Greenshow stage just north of the Engelstad Shakespeare Theatre.
Backstage tours showcase props, costumes, scenery and lights, with a peek behind the scenery and into the festival’s various production areas. Explore where all those props come from and how they are made with prop seminars. See amazing costumes up close, and learn from costume designers and technicians how the costumes are designed, constructed and cared for. Take the opportunity to witness the fascinating and well-choreographed scene-change process between a matinee and an evening show. Theater scholars (with play directors and actors joining in at times) lead discussions under the trees engaging audience members. Get to know some of the actors at the festival and ask them questions about their careers and roles.
It began in 1961, as a young entrepreneur and actor’s desire had to produce great theater. Festival founder Fred C. Adams joined the faculty in 1959 as an assistant professor of theater arts at what was then the College of Southern Utah (now Southern Utah University). He was wondering what could draw people off the newly planned I-15 freeway to stop in Cedar City. Shakespeare was a natural choice and Adams proceeded with his new company and presented “The Taming of the Shrew,” “Hamlet” and “The Merchant of Venice” in 1962. A small company of college students and residents produced the plays on an outdoor platform. Between rehearsals, volunteer actors wielded hammers and scissors, building their own stage, props and costumes. The initial two-week season attracted 3,276 spectators, and yielded a much-needed $2,000 profit on which to build a second season.
Today, the Utah Shakespeare Festival remains on the campus of Southern Utah University and is one of the oldest and largest Shakespearean festivals in North America. Each year it produces eight professional plays and brings plays to schools throughout the West during the winter months. Cedar City is 180 miles north of Las Vegas and average temperatures are high 70s to mid 80s during the summer months. For more information about the festival, visit bard.org. To plan a trip including lodging, visit cedarcity.org.